Kids need to connect with nature more than ever, and Congress can play a role in helping.
While spending time outdoors is important to the health of both adults and children, technology is leading us to spend more time indoors. According to the Outdoor Foundation, 63 percent of youth ages 6 to 12 participated in outdoor recreation in 2011, compared to 78 percent in 2006.
Last week, our partner group Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) visited Capitol Hill to advocate for getting kids outdoors through education, recreation and environmental stewardship.
"Health, recreation and conservation organizations and businesses from around the country came together to tell Congress that outdoor play and work opportunities for young people are an important national priority," said Paul Sanford, The Wilderness Society's Senior Recreation Specialist and co-Vice-Chair of OAK.
"Members of Congress heard that message loud and clear. OAK calls on Congress to take action before the end of the year on bills that help get children, youth and families outdoors."
OAK is a national partnership of diverse organizations who share an interest in connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors. OAK’s members believe that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities, and the economy of the future all depend on humans having a personal, direct, and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors.
During the approximately 20 meetings they held with members of Congress, representatives from OAK emphasized legislative bills currently under consideration, including:
- The No Child Left Inside Act (H.R.2702; S. 1306), which would create new funding for training teachers and expanding environmental education programs, and for states to implement environmental literacy plans.
- The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act (H.R.4706; S. 2367), which would create incentives for state agencies and partners to develop strategies to connect communities with green spaces, provide opportunities for outdoor recreation, and engage the healthcare sector in educating caregivers about the benefits of active time outdoors.
- The Public Lands Service Corps Act (H.R. 1351; S. 360), which would help land and water management agencies meet our nation’s backlogged maintenance needs and prepare youth to be the next generation of natural resource employees by establishing service opportunities for young people on public lands.
- Reauthorization of Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), Safe Streets Act (H.R. 2468; S. 2004), and New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act (H.R. 3978), which all support access to safe transportation options that connect to parks and public lands, and promote public health through physical activity.